Why Ahed Tamimi Matters by Finn Boyle

Why Ahed Tamimi Matters by Finn Boyle

Now, for the first time in human history, we’re starting to suffer from problems of abundance. For the vast majority of our time on this celestial rock we’ve been browbeaten and bested by scarcity, which manifests itself in many forms – famine, lack of medication, limited knowledge of the world, etc. However, for the past few hundred years, we’ve become so efficient as a species that most of our problems revolve around having too much of a certain thing. And our abundance isn’t limited to resources either. While before the only voice that could be heard was the lord who overlooked you from his castle, now everyone demands to be listened to, and the only way to have a voice is to pay a Faustian price: your identity. Such is the fate of Ahed Tamimi.

​The 16-year old Palestinian activist seems the ideal poster child for any political movement: she is young, passionate, pretty, comes from a family of activists, and, most importantly, has an indomitable resolve. These last two qualities were on display in the viral video that brought her international headlines last month; she was arrested after hitting an Israeli soldier who came by her home when she recognized him as the same soldier who shot her younger cousin earlier that day. For this, members of the Israeli judicial system have sought to make an example of her. Meanwhile, numerous Palestinian activists seek to lionize and deify her, turn her into a symbol of hope and resistance against all odds. By this simple action on behalf of a loved one, Ahed Tamimi has, willingly or otherwise, molded herself into that most dangerous of beings: a Homo Sacer.

​Homo Sacer, or ‘sacred man’, is an old Roman punishment bestowed upon people who had committed certain horrific crimes. Any man deemed ‘homo sacer’ was placed outside of the law, meaning he would not be protected by it. He could be robbed or beaten or murdered and the law wouldn’t lift a finger. However, because he was ‘sacred’ he was specifically excluded from being made into a human sacrifice, meaning one was simultaneously outside of the law and within. Included by the law by being excluded from it. Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben argues that, rather than being the exception as it was in Rome, the act of homo sacer has become the norm. All citizens have been placed both outside of the law and within, and the extent to which they are protected by it is determined solely on whoever is arbitrating. He points to CIA black sites post-9/11, immigrant detention centres and, of course, the treatment of Palestinians as examples of modern-day homi sacri.

​And none can embody the concept of Homo Sacer better than Ahed. Since her arrest, she has been held in an Israeli courthouse indefinitely, with her temporary detention period being extended every few days. She has received threats from the Israeli Education Minister, who called for her entire family to be imprisoned, and a prominent journalist who suggested that the government should “exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras.” The message is clear: we control you, we decide, if you rebel, this will happen to you, and if you don’t like it, it can get much worse.

​Ultimatums like this are only issued when the situation becomes bad enough to warrant it. Such is the state of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We talk in the AB Project of violence as if it is something invisible, yet present – a psychosocial plague of sorts. Yet, not all youth are awarded the privilege of security. Palestinian youth deal with the presence of violence on a day to day basis, be it the physical kind from gunfire or shells, the systemic kind found in the presence of Homi Sacri, the corrective kind found in daily racial discrimination, or a whole host of others.

​The comparison I made earlier between violence and a plague wasn’t just for dramatic effect. Violence operates like an ideological parasite, contaminating and changing the behavior of a host and spreading throughout a population. And once it takes root, it can be hard to get rid of. People raised in violent environments are likely to create more violent environments as time goes on. The cycle rolls on.

​What Ahed Tamimi has done, by defying Israeli judicial terror by simply not reacting, is powerful. Violence is always intended to change something by controlling it, to elicit a specific reaction. By staring down the leviathan and not saying anything, Ahed has robbed the powers-that-be of their namesake. She has shown that sometimes, in the face of violence, the best reaction is the lack thereof. This is why she has received as many threats as she has; she is blowing at the base of the house of cards. It should be our job, as artists, to help her kick it down and build a newer, better, one for the benefit of all who live in its shadow.

~ Finn

 

Image by Haim Schwarczenberg.

She came in with butcher knives but do we know the truth? By Finn Boyle

She came in with butcher knives but do we know the truth? By Finn Boyle

Not much can be said about Charles Manson that hasn’t already spent the last 40 years being discussed ad nauseam by people of all colours, cultures and creeds. Something about him, either his deadly charisma, unpredictable mania, otherworldly disciples or ineffable other attribute caused him to capture international attention and hold on for decades on end. The original cult leader, he became an unfortunate blueprint for generations to come of the power and glamour that could be controlled by a single individual. Yet he was a psychopathic, delusional maniac who was mocked and reviled the world over. In possession of seemingly no redeeming quality – save his charismatic following – he gripped a nation as he sat in a courtroom; Jesus in appearance, Antichrist in essence. Charles Manson, who died in California at 83, stands as proof positive to the world for the necessity of the AB Project.

​Now, that may seem like an obsessive or tenuous connection to make between the Family and the Project, but thematic similarities abound. Manson’s children were, after all, disaffected artistic youth who were lured and manipulated by offers of catharsis and redemption through violence and purpose. Members of the Manson Family were lured in with promises of drugs and love while being taught to reject everything they knew and shaking off all that had come previous – par for the course as far as cult leaders are concerned, and that’s exactly the problem. Parallels can be made between Manson and the Project, but they can also be found with Hassan-I Sabbah who convinced thousands to commit numerous acts of violence and skullduggery through the use of drugs and love and being affirmed that “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” And what’s most worrying about that connection is that Hassan-I Sabbah died in 1124 A.D. The spectre of cathartic violence has haunted societies for centuries, and can seem almost inescapable. Even more worrying if who the violence both befalls and is perpetrated by – the young, the creative, the active (mentally and physically), the artists. It’s both a sad and oft forgotten fact that Charles Manson himself began with dreams of being a musician.

​This may seem somewhat opposed to what has been written about the AB Project before, with blog posts often extolling the virtues of art and creativity and aesthetics. And they are virtues, without a doubt, but every head has its tail. The same forces that, when channeled, properly, lead to art and purpose, can also be misdirected, and when they are, society learns of the evil that any individual can be capable of. And it wasn’t just Charlie. All the members of the SoCal Borgia Clan carried in them a spark that they hoped would light a torch but ended up in a barrel instead. Manson, a manipulator of any kind, used this to his advantage and twisted them to follow his bidding. And, in keeping with the tradition, the very first targets were those they resembled the most; artists. While these five girls and two boys were far and away from representative of the then-fading counterculture, they were still the offspring of a society that had no room for change and no room for expression, a society that would look the other way as those dark inner forces an artist knows too well were redirected down that Helter Skelter path on Spahn Ranch. Perhaps this is what Manson Family member Susan Atkins meant when she said, “When she walks through your bedrooms carrying butcher knives, you’ll know the truth.”

​But the AB Project offers a chance. A chance at purpose, a chance at creativity, a chance to channel those bubbling and boiling inner works to create a mover and shaker who bends society down a more constructive path rather than snapping it in half and laughing at the pieces. We’ve been here before. We were here at Utoya, we were here in Waco, we were here in Jonestown, we were here at Spahn Ranch, and we were here at Alamut. Every single one of those times she came into our rooms with butcher knives. Now, finally, it seems that we know.

Finn

 

Photo curtesy of the Bettmann Archive and features Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie van Houten (left to right) during one of their first court appearances. The clothes they’re wearing were dictated by Charles Manson himself.

The AB Project’s Dance with the Dubliners by Finn Boyle

The AB Project’s Dance with the Dubliners by Finn Boyle

DAY 1

​The falling of Halloween on the day I arrived in Ireland – the birthplace of the holiday – to observe the AB Project’s exploration in Dublin carried an air of destiny and auspice. Halloween, after all, has a lot in common with the Project: a celebration of the dead and suffering wherein the central point is to adopt a persona and ward off the onslaught of evil via theatrical performance. While this may seem a somewhat over-the-top and dramatic reading of a day commonly associated with children and dress-up, it is how the originators of the tradition – the Irish –intended it. Being there, the capital of the nation whose very identity is painted with the colors of mysticism and pain and trauma and hope, carried certain expectations that weren’t present in other pastures that the Project has seen fit to plant its boot in.

​Needless to say, said expectations did not account for a sudden Baumian removal of the curtain as I was brought in to see how the AB Project Ireland’s facilitators would enact the Project in and of itself. This is not meant to criticize the choice of my observation – a pervasive problem with theatre throughout the ages has been its often sacrosanct and doctrinal reverence of illusion, grandeur and spectacle. While this elements certainly have their place, they should not be viewed as necessary or universal. Indeed, they can prove harmful and potentially catastrophic if performed for the wrong audience in the wrong venue. An occasional peak behind the blinds is healthy and imperative – especially with regards to the AB Project itself (more on that in a moment). While many dream of having the spotlight thrown on them, sometimes the true honour can be to sit in the meeting room and listen in on how the theatre exercises will come about in the first place.

​The meeting itself hung heavy with the air of discovery and knowledge not unknown to scholars debating the truth of the world in the back corners of barely lit libraries – an atmosphere that can easily be remembered and looked on fondly but is near impossible to describe to those who have never experienced it, like lying in bed and feeling the cool sheets beneath your legs. Ideas and lesson plans were tossed and bandied back-and-forth, drawing on a wealth of knowledge ranging from the changing economic status and class relations of Ireland to the growth of the alt-right to the current position of theatre on the island. Facilitators from across the country debated and discussed what to teach the youth participants and how to do so within the confines of the Project. A dialectic of ideas collided over the table as theses did combat with antitheses and the facilitators began to extract the ore of truth from the mines of creativity.
​Yet on the surface – that is, what visually and physically happened – was a group of learned individuals talking at a table. An event pregnant with excitement and stimulation yet simultaneously devoid of spectacle, which was probably the best thing about it. Possibly one of the most pertinent themes hidden in the depths of the AB Project is the danger of spectacle. Spectacle, on its own, is awe-inspiring and great to look at, and that’s precisely the problem – it’s attractive. Spectacle can only be remembered for the impact it had on the observers and not those involved. After all, the attack on Utoya was in and of itself an act of enormous spectacle, and if it is only remembered as such then we run the risk of repeating it again and again in the future. Spectacle erases emotion, trauma and tragedy and replaces it with glamour and melodrama. By focusing on that which defies spectacle – the mundane – emotion, visceral and passionate emotion, can exist and be explored free from danger and suffering, which are the only inevitabilities borne by spectacle. The small, ordinary and common aspects of life – such as the tying of shoes or scratching your nose – can in and of themselves carry a thematic weight and message that, while memorable, are far and away from spectacular and prevent the inspiration of atrocity as the regular and normal are prized over the defiant, horrific and glamorous.

DAY 2

​The morning seems sunnier as stark shadows carve the corners of Dublin streets, yet it’s still not enough to escape the frosty grasp of early November air. The conflicting sensations this produces, simultaneously part warm and comforting and cold and overbearing, could serve as an allegory for the AB Project itself; a hopeful standard-bearer marching through a desensitizing atmosphere that will, one day, go away.

​The sunny weather was further reinforced by the sunny dispositions and cheery enthusiasm worn by the youth taking part in the day’s exercises. The participants, a range and ranch of old adolescents and young adults hailing from every corner of great green Eire, tackled the heavy subjects with a creativity, curiousity and élan (which was supported by David periodically shouting ‘élan!’ as if a demon lived in his throat and the only way to exorcise it would be to yell French artistic terms with a force that would shake the world) that only exists in the hearts of artists.

​And it is precisely the attitudes fostered in the youth that give hope to the AB Project, as the AB Project is an unrelentingly dark presence that occupies a room with the same demand for attention as an elephant. For too often the mistake is made to either tackle dark subjects with darker methods, or to make a dreadful spectacle of an already abysmal event. That is not to say that every story of the Holocaust should be a slapstick comedy, far from it, rather it is imperative that already dark topics should have a torch shone on them and have the artists gaze deep into the essence of the demon and simply smile and say ‘Never Again.’
And Ireland is the best location to tackle the AB Project in such a manner, for it too has stared down its dark and unrelenting past but has smiled and turned to a brighter future and said ‘Never Again.’

Finn

“It’s always easier to deny reality than allow our worldview to be shattered.” – This Changes Everything blog by Elliot Pritchard

“It’s always easier to deny reality than allow our worldview to be shattered.” – This Changes Everything blog by Elliot Pritchard

We as humans will blind ourselves if it means not seeing the reality of what’s really going on. We will segregate ourselves and blame others for a problem that we’re collectively contributing to, we will build walls to make ourselves feel safer but at what cost? Throughout the entire course of human history we have divided ourselves into groups and fought for dominance and survival and as our society has evolved, this hierarchy has stayed the same. No matter how evolved we think we are, we’ll still always be animals fighting for the best spot at the watering hole.
As community developed, so did greed and self-preservation. These behaviours corrupted any trace of a ‘pure society’ we might have had and made people live and work for their conservation and forget about community and working together.
Community, self-preservation and greed are themes that I find myself coming back to constantly throughout the rehearsals of This Changes Everything at East 15. How far will an individual go if it means that they can save themselves? Gone are the days where the majority of us still need to forage for food so we must put our energy into something else that consumes our everyday life – work.
The very idea that we must work to survive is a lie that’s been fed to us by the corporations that profit from our labour and DEPEND on it. Ask yourselves this question – if Google, McDonalds, HSBC and Starbucks were to vanish, would you vanish also? No, you would continue to survive. So why do we devote our entire life to them? We are letting our very short time on this planet be governed by those who are not invested in us but rather our bank accounts.
It’s hard to come to terms with this and not have an existential crisis or feel that your life is something out of a Kafka novel. I certainly did! How do you deal with the realisation that your freedom is a myth and your life is void of purpose? Okay, so now I’m beginning to sound like a Nietzsche hybrid… BUT it’s very important that we do open our eyes to what is happening and challenge it! And what is the best way to do that? Make art.

If we look at history, the jester was the only one allowed to mock the king, the bouffons in France were the only ones given permission to mock the clergy or aristocracy. Artists have always been the ones to challenge the status quo and also the first to be silenced during times of oppression. The power of art is extraordinary, it teaches us that lives other than our own are important and it allows for political and social subversion. Our job as artists is to provoke and allow people to see alternatives. If This Changes Everything and working with David Glass has taught me anything, it is that.
We are a global community; it is OUR struggle and OUR job to allow change.

A DEvine Journey by Derek Elwood

A DEvine Journey by Derek Elwood

The little boat of my intellect now sets sail, to course through gentler waters, leaving behind her a sea so cruel. And I will speak of that second region, where the human spirit is purged, and becomes fit to climb to Heaven.‘ * And so began Dante’s journey through Purgatory.

Earlier this year, in February to be precise, I was working on a play in North London for another theatre company. It was a show about demonic possession and mental health issues. It featured a hoard of bizarre unearthly characters and, at the heart of the piece, there was a frenetic underworld scene. It was during these rehearsals that Briony Margaret Frances O’Callaghan approached me about a show she was developing called ‘Mortgage’. (Briony was rehearsing in the demonic show too.)
“It’s sort of about the Divine Comedy,” said Briony. “Well a bit of it. It’s set in a lunatic asylum. There are ghosts and cross dressing. My character’s called Beatrice Gunta Mortgage. She was raised by goats and is the worst stage manager in the world. She skins actors alive! Would you like to be in it?”
“Sounds fun,” I replied.
“Email me your CV. There’s no audition as it’s my company.”
“Are you directing?”
“No, it’s a collaboration. It’s being directed by a guy I’ve worked with before. His name’s David Glass.”
And with that we went back into rehearsals. A world of darkness, ultra violet light, cellos and a huge black coffin like shoe.

The demonic play comes and goes. Interesting feedback and a few nice pics on Facebook. There are goodbye hugs and thank yous as well as me pulling a muscle in my back.
During all this Briony says, “Derek, there’s been a slight change of plan. David’s a bit tied up with productions and meetings and stuff, so we’re going to him. The first two weeks of R&D aren’t in London any more. They’re in Italy. Have you got a passport?”

So next we were in Italy. Siena to be precise. It’s all a bit of a whirlwind really. I’m introduced to Hester Welch, David’s Assistant Director who seems to be doing a hundred different things all at once without fainting. I am also introduced to Valerie Glass, David’s wife, who looks all stunning and chic. There has been a whistle stop tour of the chic cafes and ice-cream parlours of Siena and tomorrow we start rehearsals for Mortgage, but tonight we are in for an extra treat.

I am seated in the front row of the Teatro Dei Rozzi about to watch a scratch performance of ‘The Brides’ by Collettivo Teatro Siena & David Glass Ensemble, directed by David Glass. It seems they do scratch performances a little differently in Italy. The theatre seats approximately six hundred people. The scratch is sold out. The audience, on mass, look expensive and immaculately dressed. There is a feeling of elegant anticipation in the stalls. Sitting on one side of me is Briony and on the other side is theatre producer Natalie Richardson.
On stage the lights brighten to reveal thirteen women in lacy slips and couture bridal gowns who are all waiting expectantly to be fufilled by their beloved groom but only candy floss haired Death is there to keep them company. It is beautiful, exquisite, feminine and poised, to begin with. Then they turn feral and at one point the Brides get their tits out, start screaming dementedly in Italian and, clambering off the stage, run into the audience. They are very loud.
“What are they saying?” I shout at Natalie.
“Cut off all men’s dicks!” Natalie bellows over the wailing bridal harpies. “Are you looking forward to working with David?”

In the rehearsal room David Glass says, “Show me your Kabuki.”
I show him a rough approximation of how I think a Kabuki performer performs because I haven’t got a sodding clue.
“Interesting,” says David. “Dance for me,”
Music plays and I dance. The little voice in my head says, ‘you’re fifty-one years old and you must look like a right prat! I tell the little voice to ‘fuck off’. I’m rather enjoying it all. Hester is taking photos. Some are put on Facebook. They collect a few likes. I keep dancing. I feel oddly liberated.
David says, “You’ve hurt your back.” He is gently feeling my left side around my rib cage. “I think you’ve torn part of your internal oblique muscles. It would be painful. We’ll come up with some stretches and exercises to ease the pain and work on regaining your flexibility.”
“Thank you,” I say.
“And now,” he says, “ we must talk of Artaud and cruelty.”

Briony and I stand at the centre of the rehearsal space. We have been joined by Silvia Bruni, one of David’s Italian Brides. Silvia is one of the most passionate people I have ever met. She is full of stories and wild unkempt hair and anecdotes and energy.
David begins to speak. “You are alone. You are standing, caught, pulled taught, between the earth beneath your feet and the Heavens which ascend above you…” Music plays. Heavenly, sublime, ascending cords and harmonies. “You are alone. You are alone. You are alone.”
And, quite simply, as an Ensemble, Briony, Silvia and I being to cry. The rehearsals of Mortgage have truly begun.

There are workshops, and ice-cream, rehearsals and pizza. There is a little time set aside for sightseeing and a lot of time needed for coffee drinking. We perform our showing. Some of the beautiful Brides are there and so is beautiful Val. Briony, Silvia and I are nervous. The showing begins. I can’t pronounce my characters name ‘Doctor Sisyphus Esculapio’, ‘Doctor Sissyfuss Escupachio’, ‘Doctor Siddius Epicashioo’. I can hear David laughing. Then Silvia’s wig, rather dramatically, falls off. The showing is over. Everyone is pleased. There is a pizza supper waiting for us all, a farewell treat from the ever loving Brides.

We are now back in London, Canary Warf and at the Theatre Deli.
David says, “We have no Silvia! Let us work with other people.”
And so a parade of friends come along to visit the rehearsals for a day and have a play in a play. Norma is there, chatting about marriage and part time jobs, only to find herself saying goodbye to existence as she entered the lunatic asylum as a patient. And then comes along handsome, handsome, handsome and talented, and did I mention handsome, Sebastiano who plays with bandages and wheelchairs and becomes another demented doctor. Kailing (who was in cello shoe play too), ex-gymnast now dancer, is there using her movement skills to be born again as if from an egg, a fetus, living, growing, maturing, then falling into decline and finally to die. And there is Simon. Simon Gleave. Quiet, composed, deeply playful and with a very infectious smile.
“Ah,” says David. “Simon.”

We need wigs and red dresses so I call an old friend of mine, Martin Ramsdin. A man of many wigs to many west end shows and also one very special lady, Horror Hostess extraordinaire Bunny Galore. Martin has wigs, a red dress, and very kindly, he also has the time to help.

There is an informal showing at Theatre Deli in Liverpool Street. David, Briony, Hester, Simon, Martin, Val and myself are there. Friends turn up to watch. There is an introductory speech by David, laughter as we perform, a chat with the audience after, and then it is down to the pub for more talking over pints and smiles. There are more Facebook likes.

And so to Exeter for the final week of research and development. Hosting us are The Bikeshed and The Exeter Phoenix where I bump into one of my old art tutors from my days in Exeter, Jem Southam, who is now one of the UK’s leading landscape photographers! Jem looks at me and says “Out of all the ex students I’ve bumped into you’re a veteran. You go back a long long way.” I feel old. The moment passes.

At the end of the week it is an intimate showing to a select few, and low key celebration with veggie pasta. ‘Mortgage’s spine has been created. The heart of her story found.’ This part of the journey has come to an end and, for me, it is a very early Sunday morning train back to London and home.

The summer is full of birthdays and auditions, meeting up with old friends and fighting the weeds in the garden, low budget filming and going to the gym. Then David emails me with a question. Would you like to be in my production of ‘Bleak House’? I email back. Yes.

Bath Spa and ‘Bleak House’. Simon is there, new friends are made and relationships forged (Gavin, Zoe, Amiee P, Amiee K, Charlotte, Penny, Tommy, Jade and Jake and Matt too. I love you all!). Some of the Italian Brides, Silvia, Rita and Margherita fly over. Producer Natalie is there helping and being encouraging – at one point she’s mopping up the stage and shouting compliments as she does so! What a lady! Briony pops down, Hester comes along and my Richard travels down for the day too. Brilliant photographs are taken by Robert Golden. The David Glass Ensemble’s ‘Bleak House’ makes it’s debut at Bath Spa along with a surprise guest appearance of Simon’s bottom! Silvia, who, to show her appreciation after watching one performace, bit my ear really hard!
‘Bleak House’ comes and goes. There is applause, Facebook likes, amazing comments, emojis, and friendship requests. There are goodbye hugs and laughter. Back home I slept like a baby.

Now it is October. The autumn sky is bright and clear. Once again we are meeting up to talk of Dante, Purgatory and ‘Mortgage’. Once again we go into rehearsals this time at The Omnibus in Clapham, whose Artistic Director is Marie McCarthy. I worked with Marie years ago. She is standing at the theatre door as I arrive. “I thought it was going to be you!” she says, laughing. Joining us is Ellie Rose, as Assistant Producer. Ellie does five and a half week’s worth of ‘getting up to speed’ in less than twenty minutes and doesn’t miss a beat!

David is so busy, spending half his time working on ‘This Changes Everything’, half the time on ‘Mortgage’ and the third half on whatever else is going on in David’s expansive diary and mind. There are workshops held on the Theatre of Cruelty and new Facebook friends are made.

And so to October 28th 2017, London, The Pleasance Theatre, and a two hour tech, six pages of dialogue to be learnt on the day plus a performance to be performed that evening.
David says, “Don’t expect laughter. There may be some, there may not. If there is, give it space. If not, that’s fine too.”
We are second in a one off double bill this evening. The first half is a man in a coffin. He is singing operatic poetry, in German, about being dead. When he finishes he gets a lot of whooping applause. Now it is our turn. Friends and colleagues are there. My Richard and David’s Val. Briony’s Mum, Hester’s boyfriend. The whole cast of Bleak House have turned up too.
And as we get to beginners the fire alarm begins to wail. In the bar the audience think it is part of the performance. All very immersive, evacuating a theatre before seeing a show about a woman who has just burnt down a theatre. The audience leave for the assembly point laughing and chatting. We leave the theatre space cursing, barefoot, dragged up and somewhat bewildered. It is a real evacuation. Someone had burnt a slice of toast in the restaurant below the theatre, setting off the alarm.
The all clear is given. The audience are ushered back into the auditorium. The lights brighten. The performance begins.

On leaving Purgatory Dante wrote, ‘Reader, if I had more space to write, I would speak, partially at least, about that sweet drink, which would never have sated me: but because all the pages determined for the second Canticle are full, the curb of art lets me go no further.’ *

The performance ends. There is laughter, applause and a bow. Afterwards we drink, we talk, we celebrate.

And so Mortgage Beatrice Gunta is here at the precipice of a new life, a new existence. With the guiding hands of The David Glass Ensemble & Created a Monster, and all the wonderful, talented and eclectic people mentioned in this one tale, plus, of course, Dante himself, yes, with all these people supporting her, Mortgage is now waiting to be purged. To be healed. She is ready to climb to the stars. Reborn, Mortgage is about to ascend to the Heavens…

* Quotes from The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri a translation into English Prose by A S Kline

 

With thanks to Max Horberry-Gracia for the photography.

‘This Changes Everything’ rehearsals – East 15 Acting School – Blog by Chloe Rowley

‘This Changes Everything’ rehearsals – East 15 Acting School – Blog by Chloe Rowley

We began our first week on This Changes Everything (TCE) without David Glass on Tuesday at 9am, although I’d become accustomed to our usual morning discussions with David, this was also an exciting change, not quite knowing exactly what to expect.
When we arrived we were greeted by a very warm and bubbly Anja Meinhardt (DGE Associate Artist), who very quickly became interested in our thoughts and feelings about the project. Anja’s approach to working with us was, in many ways very similar to David Glass as we engaged in a passionate conversation right from the get go, allowing us to bring together our own experiences of our time on TCE so far and our personal feelings. But later that day I would find that Anja’s way of working was also a little different, as by the end of the day I was more than physically exhausted, using muscles I’d forgotten about over summer whilst also reminding me that now would be a good time to sign back up to a gym.

We used a choreographed contemporary dance warm up to begin the class which incorporated the Élan technique that we’d been working on with, with David Glass. I felt that this work used so many elements of nature; staying grounded, momentum, connection with gravity, suspension and positive energy.
Had we not worked so much with the concept of Élan and releasing the head and neck in the past few weeks, I may not have found this way of moving so natural and free. A point David made about people letting go of their heads when going to clubs also resonated with me. When I went out at the weekend, I could see people throwing their heads about on the dance floor, the extra drunk people tipping it back almost all the way, open mouthed and looking so alive and free, these were also the ones that were the most interesting to watch.

I could see a distinct link between all of the work we’d been doing so far and the movement and choreographed dance Anja taught. Each section of movement showed me how important momentum is when moving, using every movement as a cause and effect, flowing on to the next.
Later on in the week I realised that this warm up really helped to cement the types of choreography we were working with, I realised that the moves from the warm up could be used in the different dance styles we were exploring giving inspiration for moves in rock and roll lifts, working with momentum to drop to the floor and helping with connecting moves while choreographing dances.
Unfortunately on the Thursday I injured my coccyx making it hard to roll on my bum so I tried sitting out for the floor work that focused mainly on that area, this was such a good experience as I’d never sat out before to watch. Although it was really annoying that I couldn’t be fully involved, I was able to learn more as it was amazing to see everyone’s movement abilities which gave me inspiration for more 1960’s style choreography.

I discovered how changing the meaning of one object can change the way that we as humans act. Anja got us to imagine that we were all strangers in a room and threw a ball into the mix, telling us it was something very important, almost everyone’s reactions were animalistic, resulting in violence and without consideration for others, doing whatever we could to get the ball. I felt a surge of energy pulse through me, making me want to attack and fight, as if this object meant more to me than the welfare of other people. This showed me that anything could be used as a tool to pit humankind against one another if it is given enough importance. Maybe this is what big corporate companies are doing to distract us away from caring about the welfare of other humans, blinding us to the fact that this object that they’re selling, has so much importance that it doesn’t matter who gets trodden on to manufacture it, whether it be single mothers working zero hour contracts or people working in sweat shops, miles and miles from their families with no breaks and getting paid pennies.
Is capitalism brainwashing us to think that these objects are more important than other human lives because of the importance they are giving it?

During a visualisation exercise where we imagined the world ending, while walking from one end of the room to the other, the four main things that kept coming up in everyone’s imagined worlds were fire, sand, water and earth, not bricks or plastic or cement but these four elements we imagined clearly all linked back to nature. Even subconsciously we are strongly connected to nature so why do we push it away and care so little about it? In my world in the beginning was vivid colour, the sound of laughter, green grass and a beautiful water fountain that spurted droplets of water on to my warm skin, I could feel the sun tingling my exposed chest and I remember feeling that this world that we live in is pure bliss. When the grass turned to dust and the sun turned into an unbearable flame, the most important thing to me that I longed for when the world ended was water, water to drink, to hear, to feel on my skin, it was so important in my world, making me realise that I should appreciate it more in my everyday life and actually take the time to enjoy the natural world around me.

Although we worked a lot with dance, at one point in the week we were asked to find a partner and spend time looking into their eyes, similar to an exercise we worked with David in a previous week but this time vocalising what we saw in the other person’s eyes, taking it in turns to say ‘I see…’
It would be impossible to describe in this blog fully what I saw but, it was like seeing someone that I knew very well for the first time, yet knowing them forever and living with them for their whole life. I could feel everything that Tom had ever felt; his pain and his love, his happy memories and his sorrow. I felt as though we were the same person and I had been with him since birth, I saw how much he cared about things and how really, truly beautiful he was inside. It was an amazing experience that would be impossible to repeat with anyone else, as everyone’s journey would have each been so different. I think it made us all realise how little we give meaningful eye contact.
It just made me think about how we care so little about the everyday people we come in contact with, we are like robots, closed off with glazed eyes. And after that experience with Tom, I found myself consciously trying to give eye contact to everyone I communicated with and realised how little people do it, it has become the norm to disconnect from society and isolate ourselves from others. Maybe if we all took the time to look deeply into each other’s eyes then the world wouldn’t be such a fucked up place and we’d all be more understanding and empathetic towards others, then again, that would be pretty weird if we were to stare intently into the shop assistants eyes for ten minutes while paying for things, but hey maybe we should do it anyway!

I’d love to spend that long (I have no idea how long we did the exercise for) looking into the eyes of each person in the class, maybe even each person I come in contact with but the problem with humans is time, and how little we believe to have of it to do amazing things like this!

 

Photograph curtesy of Robert Golden

The Pathway From ‘Preparation’ To ‘Origination’ by Shanez Pattni – This Changes Everything with East 15 Acting School

The Pathway From ‘Preparation’ To ‘Origination’ by Shanez Pattni – This Changes Everything with East 15 Acting School

WEEK 3
Tuesday

I entered this week with strong intentions of experiencing what others have when they volunteered for exercises and that, I did; and it was great!
We started the day off with Elán (or life-fullness) – which feels like second nature when warming up now. As the days and weeks progress, the relationship I have with my body and the ground has also progressed. Habitually, I tend to stay ‘above the ground’ as opposed to being grounded but since revisiting the contact with the floor, I feel am starting to feel so much more grounded physically as well mentally. The exploration of the different body parts and not actually knowing what will come next in my time on the floor is more exciting than being intelligent about it; it’s all about discovery.
We started to explore the idea of push and pull with a partner and how that relationship can evolve into something much more if we just focused and released the head. I was paired with Marisa and just started to counter balance each other’s weight but our heads immediately locked as though we needed to be in control of our movements and then it just felt abnormal, because my body was quite free and fluid whilst my head was just fixed in one position. Once we were reminded by David to release the head, the breath deepened and the floor was my friend again. Once that was released, Marisa and I were rolling on the floor, creating a story with just the resistance alone, but I felt sisterhood. I felt aggression but I felt we shared that together. Suddenly, I found a strength that I don’t necessarily use to my advantage all the time and I literally just stood in one place whilst pushing one place whilst Marisa was using different tactics to try and move me. At that moment, I found sisterhood within Marisa. She was my little sister trying to win one over me and I was like “no honey, I am the bigger sister, you need to just pipe down and LOVE ME!” I just remember looking into her eyes and seeing warmth but the strength was pulsing between us- very powerful.

The Frozen Lake

“What does this look like to you?” We were all faced with a plastic sheet on the floor and the first thing that came to my head was a frozen lake. The temperature in the room was cold too so that stimulated my imagination further. Everyone else was suggesting clinical or crime scenes but all I saw was peace and water. It was beautiful; and what then upset me was that it was just a sheet of plastic. Then another thought came to my head; is this what our children and their children will do? Imagining man made products as something that was once natural and beautiful but has now gone because of pollution in the sea caused by PLASTIC! Since reading Naomi Klein’s book and our process, I’ve been made aware of the connections between every little thing; sometimes it’s a blessing but most of the time I just blame myself for using plastic or anything that may harm the planet and that’s what I was doing then. However, I volunteered to dance on top of the sheet with music picked by David and it was the most peaceful I have been in a while. To me, however, I was not dancing. I was merely seeing the ocean for the first time. Cold, but beautiful. Shallow but I saw the depths within the waves. I could feel me imitating the ripples of the water which then caused undulations in my body, but it felt so free and innocent. Before the exercise, David told me not choreograph but to just feel it. Like the warm up, I just discovered. I discovered the ripple patterns of the ocean and, what it’d be like if it was frozen. My imagination went into hyperdrive but I had so much fun and I felt like a young Shanez not having a care in the world! I could feel myself anticipating my mum’s voice ruining the moment as she would never let young Shanez play by water; I was completely in it.
Scott then went under it and it was so interesting as my image of water disappeared. It looked more like a child under a parachute and he too looked like he was discovering. Seeing the cause and effect of things. But then he lost control of it as we fought back and it was (as Liam said) “like mankind was fighting against what’s been created”. The contrast between mine and his was very interesting but the synchronicity was still present.
Again, with the plastic sheet, Chloe and Tom did an exercise where he was under the plastic sheet, dead, whilst she was on top trying to get to them. It was harrowing to watch as Tom’s body was so lifeless and out of reach; but it was Chloe’s heartache that resonated more than anything. Everything about her reaction was so genuine and deep that it became beautifully harrowing.
“Push and pull was all I saw. Something was attracting Chloe but the reality of what was happening kept pulling her back”.

The Protests

This exercise was by the most powerful exercise I have ever done. It forced me to confront my beliefs and others’ beliefs that may or may not coincide with my own, and all we could say is yes or no. It did take quite a while for me to properly get into it because I didn’t just want to run to a wall and say yes or no with no belief behind it. I felt that at times, I was doing that because I was digging deep to what I believe. It was when I started to get personal with myself that I started to protest. Race was my biggest conflict. Suddenly, issues from secondary school started pouring in and I had to just let them out as I suppressed them for so long. But like I said in the learning circle, “the wall was not absorbing my questions”. It was only when I confronted myself in the mirror that I saw the 13 year old Shanez that had to deal with all that sh*t. I saw the only black girl in the room. Dark skinned. I saw her cry uncontrollably and her bullies beside her laughing whilst she did. I saw the little girl that didn’t want to live anymore and that was horrible. Having to confront that face on was the hardest thing I have ever had to do but I did it! And slowly it started to fade away after I came back into the room. I still saw a dark-skinned girl, but now one who is strong and bloody well knows it! I felt everyone’s warmth and it was beautiful.
“You said I’m just a dark-skinned girl who won’t fit in. Then I looked in the mirror and saw my family and I fit in perfectly”.
What this week has taught me is that at some point in your life, you will be confronted by things from your past and you must learn not to suppress. There were also many things that we had done this week that are now starting to form connections that you don’t necessarily see with tunnel vision. But by using ‘Preparation’ (David’s first stage of Creative Practice) we see these exercises weave in out of each other. These connections between one thing and another are starting to form our pathway from ‘Preparation to Origination’.

WEEK 5 – This Changes Everything – East 15 Acting School blog by Eleanor Fitton

WEEK 5 – This Changes Everything – East 15 Acting School blog by Eleanor Fitton

I never thought I would get back from rehearsals feeling like I’ve just been swimming, smelling of damp and having that shiver of your wet hair going down your spine. When will I ever get to say that again?
As an Ensemble all present in the room together, standing bare in our skivvies, can you get more natural? We all gave everything we had to this exercise. Being open, making risks and not being afraid of doing it wrong, that’s what performance is about. So thank fuck we have finally been given the chance to challenge ourselves and not to be boring. Being in a studio that is so wet is indescribable. As I dropped my body onto the floor shaking myself I could feel the water running across my body, slipping and sliding. I didn’t know where it would take me. I was surprised of what it did make me feel; like part of a ritual, but then it changed. Our faces were pressing against the wet floor as we spread and reached our fingers out. David said we are not to move, which made me feel like I was in a concentration camp. I didn’t dare breath, because if I did I knew what would happen.

When you’re standing by the sea you feel at peace, like that is where you belong in that very moment, and that’s because it is. We lived in our mother’s womb for 9 months, breathing and moving in water. People forget how important water is, we need it to survive. Why are people destroying it? Making it not worthy to drink because it’s polluted, so now we are having to go out and pay for bottles of plastic just to have a drink of water! It’s supposed to be natural, so why do I feel like there is something so wrong about it? As a world we share the sea, that’s what connects us.
Before I started rehearsals on This Changes Everything, I knew climate change existed, but I didn’t pay attention. Did that mean I was in denial? How my life has changed since starting this project. When I look at the news, I used to see war, but now I see climate change screaming out at me.
At the beginning of the week I saw this beautiful article by David Attenborough. It said; “Blue Planet II returns to the worlds ocean. The series looks at the impact of humans on life in the ocean, from warming seas and plastics to pollutants in the milk dolphins feed their calves, as well as telling stories of species recovery.” Going into the rehearsal space with these images from the article and then playing with water was rich. It was something we all needed to do, a sense of realisation.

Working with David feels like Christmas, you walk into the room and you don’t know what you’re going to get. This week has been interesting for me, as it’s a week where we re-visited ideas. It’s useful for me to know how I have changed doing it, and how it has changed. Each time I am asked to do the fish pose and crawl forwards to the audience, it’s a different experience every time. When I did this last time I felt like I was in the exorcist. This time was different, was it a nightmare looking back at the experience before or was I dreaming?
Doing it felt strangely normal. My back was facing down, lying on a mattress, with my head pushed up eyes alert flickering like thoughts, mouth open like a vulva. My legs were wide and spread open; I was asked the question of what it was like to put my legs apart? Today so often people comment on this movement seeming sexual, but it’s the way women give birth. That is what it was like for me to do it this time. Having Gemma lying on top of me doing this movement together was as if we were one. The thought of being separated was like the earth was coming down.
This made me reflect back to the book of This Changes Everything; “ I caught myself imagining how, as a wizend old woman, I would describe this extraordinary fish- its electric colour, its jewelled texture -to a child living in a world where these wild creatures had disappeared. I called my morbid habbit ‘pre loss’.”

 

Booking link for the show HERE

‘This Changes Everything’ with East 15 Acting School – blog by perfomer Kim Hallam

‘This Changes Everything’ with East 15 Acting School – blog by perfomer Kim Hallam

I began this process sceptical. That had nothing to do with feeling apprehension towards my director or fears of my first third year production. I denied climate change. I understood that we are polluting the planet and that we are poisoning  the Earth, but I was the first to shout “the world heats up and cools down”. I would admit that we were speeding up the process, nonetheless for me; the topic of ‘climate change’ would be swiftly followed by an eye roll…
Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m a vegetarian, I’m aware of the dirty palm oil industry, I’m cutting out beauty products tested on animals etc. I thought I was doing all the right things. However I was uneducated and uninterested in doing the research on our rapidly changing climate. Nevertheless when presented with This Changes Everything, I was committed to learning about Naomi Klein’s extensive research.

I completed the book and I felt foolish.

The symptoms of our corrupt planet, such as the meat industry and lack of fair trade are important, yes. However I now feel that they are merely distractions from a much bigger and more terrifying problem. That problem is our society. Capitalism manages to sell us a filthy dream of being rich all the while flaunting the rose tinted suffering of the underdogs who are keeping it afloat. We live in a world where we know children make our shoes, but continue to replace them regularly. We fill the sea full of oil, which we know destroys the coral reefs but then still choose to drive a five mile journey rather than walk. All the while people are gasping to keep themselves above the poverty line and some are utterly drowning. We ignore it. Still every time I promise that this is the “last time” I’ll have my Café Nero coffee in an unrecyclable cup…

I am disgusted with the way I have completely ignored the deterioration of our stunning planet and the marvellous people in it. This rehearsal process has given me an understanding of the pain that we have caused to this beautiful world. This week I wailed at my own imaginary image of a pollution filled sky. I stretched my body as high as I could, desperate for my fingertips to reach the clouded sun, choking on the murky air, only to come away from the exercise knowing that that is a reality in China… I have had many moments where I have felt hopeless. At least once a week I’ve said “fuck it, what’s the point?” I’ve felt that I have been mocking the work of environmentalists by throwing tennis balls at a plastic sheet to explore “protest”, when real people all over the world have literally given their lives in REAL protest. It felt like a piss take.

I continue to support capitalism on a daily basis by simply living my life and whilst capitalism rules the world, without removing myself from society I will always be a part of it. Now I could remove myself, run away and live in a forest? But we both know I will never actually run with that unproductive and irrational idea, because if I did, it would also remove my voice… and my voice as an artist and as a human is the most powerful gift that I will ever have in this fucked up world. There is no way in hell that I am going to let hopelessness silence me. I’m going to scream loud, louder than I thought it would ever be able to. Theatre makes the shit in this world accessible and relatable. I want every single person in that audience to listen what we have to say, and really hear us. I hope this changes people, even if it’s just one person for half an hour after the show…
I have a beautiful new respect for this planet and a vicious anger towards the people who run this backwards world. I don’t want to be a part of the generation who lets it die. I can’t bring children into a world that I’m ashamed of. I can at least try to make a difference and that’s got to be damn well better than giving up.

“Sorry Susan, let me correct you… I am SELFemployed, not UNemployed. Ok. Thanks. Bye.”

“Sorry Susan, let me correct you… I am SELFemployed, not UNemployed. Ok. Thanks. Bye.”

Blog by Aimee Kember.

We said farewell to Bleak House a little over 4 weeks ago, which feels like 4 months! Time has flown by and I’m sure all of us would love to be back in the theatre creating and getting messy. Since graduating last July, this is the first time I have no idea what’s next. Another life lesson they don’t teach you at university or drama school; how to use your time wisely.

Time is an interesting subject. Time is behind everything. You go through a breakup and people will say, “time is the best healer”. You get injured and you must “give it time”. “Your time will come” is another saying I hear being thrown around a lot. Now, an actor can either wait for time to pass for the next job or use that free time to expand themselves before the next journey arrives. I often find myself internally screaming at people, when they talk to me about employment; “I am self-employed NOT unemployed.” Now I for one defiantly haven’t mastered self-employment. Some days, I am up and at my desk by 9am, (I spent my birthday money on a desk rather than an iPod, that’s a real adult decision) emailing people, applying for jobs, researching or doing anything to help me in my next steps, and other days, I could quite easily spend all day pretending that binge-watching ‘Doctor Foster’ is classed as research. However, I have started to see the beauty in it. Don’t get me wrong I am also looking for “inbetween jobs, job” but having this free time to learn new skills and expand myself is extremely freeing and I can’t think of many industry’s that gives you time to do that. There is something thrilling about not having to wait for the weekend to spend time on yourself.

Speaking to people is crucial. I spent an hour chatting with Helen Lannaghan over coffee the other week (who I would not have met if it was not for David Glass) and I came away feeling motivated and positive about my next steps. Helen is Artistic Director of the London International Mime Festival and an ambassador of the David Glass Ensemble. She is also an all-round inspiring, hardworking and lovely individual. Talking with her about her work, about my ambitions and receiving advice and guidance from her was extremely uplifting. Sometimes you need to have someone else who isn’t a friend/relative and knows what they are talking about to sit you down and say; “you are good”, to give you the motivation you need to step outside that box you keep putting yourself in. Helen reminded me how important staying connected is. I find myself feeling a little lost from time to time in this huge industry, where I don’t have an agent or a well-known drama school under my belt, but what I do have is the freedom to connect with people, to share experiences with others and let people in. I am very thankful to Helen for taking time out of her very busy schedule to chat to me. Do make sure you check out the International Mime Festival, dates for Jan – Feb 2018 have just been released.

Observing. Now I know I’m probably not the only one, but I learn so much from observing. David Glass invited me along to watch a day of rehearsals at East 15 Acting School. The 3rd year Physical Theatre actors are currently working on ‘This Changes Everything’ inspired by Naomi Klein’s novel. The first thing I noticed straight away was the ensemble. This was a year group of about 15 actors who have worked together for the last 3 years. Of course, it’s predictable that they would work organically together. However, that is not the same as having a good ensemble. If David asked for something (which is normally leaves you thinking “where am I meant to produce that from, my arse?”) they would just do it; as a team. They were all extremely different individuals, which meant they all had their place within the ensemble. As a group, they had a rhythm and an atmosphere they carried with them. Just from observing them for a few hours I knew they had the ability to create a fantastic piece.

The way David worked with this ensemble wasn’t overly dissimilar from how he worked with the Bleak House ensemble. Mr Glass is very experimental in his work, for example, he will explore an emotion and put the actors into a scenario to bring that emotion to the surface. I have had the privilege to participate in many of these exploration exercises, however I haven’t properly observed one before and as I predicted it was extremely interesting to watch. This particular exercise, had the cast playing the triangle game, (a game I personally am very competitive in) choosing two people to try and stay in a triangle with. To add another layer, they had to count down whilst they played. For more intensity “rock around the clock” was played and in intervals of the game actors had to find a pair and begin dancing as the music got more frantic. When reflecting on what I had observed, my words were, “it was heart-breaking to watch, but I couldn’t look away”. To see how gradually each person became effected and how differently they all reacted. Some found the dancing an escape from the countdown, and others looked as if the dancing was torturous. These sorts of exercises always end up linking the show in some way. The countdown felt as if they were counting down to the end of the world whilst distracting themselves with dancing. Eventually the actors ending up as foetuses on the floor, which to some of us represented seeds being replanted.

Images are a main aspect in David’s work. The day I was there I saw some beautiful imagery, and heard about all the others that had been worked on over the last few weeks. Also, objects are a huge part of his process, using materials you wouldn’t think of to create something beautiful, for example, simply hanging a battered sheet of plastic from the ceiling became a stunning image of dark fog. David will add layers on top of layers and I always sit there stunned by how he’s imagination works on overdrive for many hours of the day.

I was utterly in awe and inspired by how open the ensemble were to play and how unafraid they were to all get stuck in. I found myself thinking after each exercise, “that has to be in the show!”. However. I know first-hand that a lot of magic that happens in the rehearsals room stays within those four walls, but the essence of what created oozes through the performance on the stage.

Over all, my day at East 15 was filled with creativity, talent and an overall wonderful experience. I felt like a fly on the wall, watching the story build block by block. Best of all I had a day of stimulating conversations with David who always makes me look at the world with new eyes, and challenge my ideas and ideals.

Earlier I wrote: “we actors can either wait for time to pass for the next job or we can use that time we now have to expand ourselves before the next journey arrives.” Reflecting on this statement, I have decided to stop treating each job as a different journey or process and begin to see each of them as a stepping stone to the next. They may be different genres, different characters, different people, but they all contribute. Aimee goes into the experience but a slightly stretched Aimee comes out. It’s all relatable, and I personally carry what I have learnt into the next adventure.

To end this ramble, I would like to thank: Helen for inspiring and believing in me, the 3rd year Physical Theatre actors at East 15 for allowing me to intrude on their rehearsals and of course David for continuing to motivate me and for his tremendous support.

Go and see ‘This Changes Everything’ in November in Southend, I have no doubt it’s going to make you think whilst also being a sceptical. Based around an extremely relevant and important message and performed by a very talented group who are soon to be graduating and entering this crazy industry. Go support them and see what they have to offer!
 

Information for the show can be found HERE